CHILLUM – When it comes down to it, much of an area’s success comes from the right branding, and County Councilwoman Deni Taveras thinks her district needs a little branding makeover. Hubs and specialty districts are popping up all over Prince George’s County and Taveras wants the northern, unincorporated areas to band together to become […]
CHILLUM – When it comes down to it, much of an area’s success comes from the right branding, and County Councilwoman Deni Taveras thinks her district needs a little branding makeover.
Hubs and specialty districts are popping up all over Prince George’s County and Taveras wants the northern, unincorporated areas to band together to become better advocates for their needs.
To do this, she brought together stakeholders at a meeting on Dec. 15 at the Rollingcrest-Chillum Community Center where the group listened to multiple presentations on how to rebrand and rejuvenate the portion of the county that borders Montgomery County and Washington, D.C. It’s the section Taveras is now calling the “Northern Gateway.”
“We really tried to get a real special group together here this morning of key stakeholders who are affected and are relevant in this area that we are calling now the Northern Gateway,” she said. “We first mentioned the Northern Gateway at our State of the District meeting, but now we’re trying to really highlight what this means and what it is.”
The meeting was standing room only and gathered the likes of community association presidents, staff from the planning board, state delegates, members of the department of public works and the department of permitting and inspecting.
The Neighborhood Design Center, Taveras and the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) planning department all gave presentations on the landmarks, sights and possibilities the Northern Gateway holds.
There are 19,000 households in the Northern Gateway with an average income of $59,000. Taveras thinks those numbers make this area a billion dollar market that needs to be leveraged.
Taveras said she wants to see the Northern Gateway do something similar to the work done in the Gateway Arts District, where the area is branded on its advantages. This could be done by perhaps branding it as the “International Corridor,” she said.
“It could be something as simple as, right now we could doing something very tangible to try to give it distinctive flavor. Like bringing in new welcoming signs… so that when people enter the county at the edge, people can know you’re stepping into a new area,” she said.
Allie O’Neill with the Neighborhood Design Center said simple things like signs can also increase the area’s brand – the reason why people will come to Northern Gateway to spend time and money.
“When we started talking about and thinking about the Northern Gateway, we realized that really, what we’re doing is we’re creating a sense of place,” O’Neill said. “We want to create a place that is memorable and that serves its residents, but that also attracts people to come and visit, to stay and to linger.”
Taveras said building the brand will also include reducing blight in the community. That includes areas of disarray in the Northern Gateway, which could be rundown or vacant buildings, areas where there is a large amount of dumping of old furniture, appliances and mattress, and areas where there are high levels of illegal activity such as drug dealing and prostitution.
These were all concerns brought up at the meeting by community residents and association leaders, who feel the area should work on its glaring issues through county intervention before trying to advertise as a destination.
Residents brought up issues of code enforcement, complaining about the number of single family homes that have been converted into duplexes or house several families or large amounts of people.
Gary Cunningham, the deputy director of the county department of permitting and inspection (DPIE), said he heard a large portion of the community members gathered to vocalize that the county enforcement is not working the way it should.
“What I’ve heard in this meeting is that there is an issue with code enforcement in Prince George’s County,” he said. “And I’m hearing that there hasn’t been specific follow-up.”
However he said his department is currently dealing with 3,600 vacant properties in the county and any time a violation occurs, the property owner can take the case to court. A court case can take up to five or six months, slowing down the process.
An additional meeting between DPIE and the District 2 community is set for Jan. 18 at the Rollingcrest-Chillum Community Center.
Another major factor in the branding of the Northern Gateway is the individual communities’ identities and the confusion over where one community end and another begins.
However, Taveras said for this idea to work, the community associations are going to have to stop pulling away from each other and work together.
“This is just the beginning of a conversation that we’re having today,” Taveras said. “Every neighborhood has its own flavor. We don’t want to take away from the neighborhoods but we want to be an umbrella organization that brings them all together so that they can have greater say, greater power, greater leverage.”